We’ve all seen the photos on Instagram and yes it’s over-saturated with bloggers and influencers, but like so many people, I’ve wanted to see the tulip fields in Lisse for several years. There’s just something so unique and beautiful about those perfectly uniform stripes of colour in fields for as far as the eye can see.
My issue has always been how expensive the flights to the Netherlands are during tulip season as airlines capitalise on the surge in tourists coming to visit the fields and the world-famous Keukenhof Gardens. But this year, my friend Charlotte and I were determined to see the fields and to do so on a budget, and yep, you guessed it - without taking any time off work either.
Below I’ve outlined essential information about Lisse, how we planned when to go (the flowers bloom at slightly different times every year) and the most useful tool to work out when flowers will be at their peak. There are also the three main things we did to save money and keep this trip on a budget - Find out what they were below.
Where is Lisse?
Lisse is a town in the Netherlands, southwest of Amsterdam and Amsterdam Schipol Airport. Lisse is most famous as the home of Keukenhof Gardens where millions of flowers are cultivated each year. The surrounding farmland of Lisse is also a tulip growing region due to it’s ideal location near the sea and with sand-like soil. The fields are all owned by local farmers whose main product are the tulip bulbs, both in the Netherlands and exported abroad.
On this note, please remember that these fields are the farmers’ livelihoods, please be respectful and do not walk in the fields between the tulip rows or pick the flowers. The farmers graciously allow visitors to walk around the edges of their fields but if you walk into the flowers you will damage their crop and their livelihood as well as ruin it for all those who are respectful - farmers are starting to close off their fields so there is no access at all. If you would like to go into the fields, please support local businesses like Fam Flower Farm who allow access and photoshoots in their fields for a small fee.
When is the best time to see the tulips in peak bloom?
The Keukenhof website is a useful resource but the advice is very general and suggests that the tulips bloom between March-May each year - this is when Keukenhof Gardens are open. However Keukenhof Gardens are a tourist attraction, whereas the fields around the Lisse area are working farm fields and the tulip bulbs are the livelihood for most farmers in the area, therefore they will cut the fields when they need to for their business - not at the whim of tourists and visitors! This means checking for field updates is the best way to ascertain when the fields will be in peak bloom. We used Flower Radar which is updated daily by locals with the status of the flowers in fields in the area, including pictures. This tool was so useful and also helped us pick which bike route to choose on the day.
How to visit on a budget
There are three main ways we saved money on this trip and it meant we were able to have our dream of seeing the tulips and do it for only £155 per person.
1 - Take the bus
If you’ve been around my blog before you’ll know I’m a fan of using coach journeys to cut down on costs, particularly overnight coaches to cut down on accommodation costs too. We took Flixbus from London Victoria to Amsterdam Schipol Airport overnight, meaning we left London at 8pm and arrived the following day at 10am (we also had a 3am stopover in Antwerp - check this before you book if you don’t want a stopover!) The buses to Amsterdam and Amsterdam Airport run several times a day from London and since Flixbus operates across Europe, you can undoubtedly find routes from other European cities too depending on your location.
When we originally looked, this journey was only £65 return!!! That was about a month before. We unfortunately left it a little late due to figuring out the peak tulip bloom and ended up getting our return coach ticket for £105 return - still much cheaper than any flights and also includes our accommodation costs since both nights of our trip would be spent on the coach!
This did mean we only had 1 full day to explore Lisse and grab dinner in Amsterdam, so if you prefer to travel slower this option may not be for you. But for those with a limited budget and limited annual leave from work - this is the perfect cost-cutting option.
2 - Hire a bike
Some people will travel half way around the world to see Keukenhof Gardens, after all they are known as the Garden of Europe and with 7 million bulbs planted each year, it’s not hard to see why! However, tickets are 18 euros or 28 euros including the Keukenhof bus from the airport to the entrance and we didn’t fancy the huge queue to get in during the peak of the season or the crowds when we were inside (we went on Saturday 19th April which was Easter weekend too).
We wanted to explore the fields in the surrounding area of Keukenhof, called Lisse, and we wanted to do that at our own pace so we could explore and take photos without the crowds. So instead, we hired a bike for 10 euros from the bike rental place outside the Keukenhof entrance and I really recommend this option. This gave us the bike for 3 hours and there are 4 suggested bike routes which you can find here. We did the purple route as we’d checked the flower radar where the blooms were best that weekend, however with the amount of photo stops we did, it took us 3 hours instead of the suggested 1-2 hours!
Also worth mentioning even if you’re not confident on a bike, you will be fine here, there are designated bike lanes or paths on most roads and where there isn’t, these country roads are small and don’t get busy with vehicle traffic - plus locals are used to lots of bikes in this area and are very courteous in giving bikes a wide berth on the road. A helmet is also available to rent for an additional 2 euros from the bike rental place.
3 - Take your own food
This advice is something I follow on any trip I take and it’s one of my biggest cost-cutting practices. But food is not cheap in Lisse or Amsterdam - particularly in touristic areas like around Keukenhof. We took snacks and pack-up lunches on the bus from London which lasted us the whole trip. We treated ourselves to a pub-grub meal in Amsterdam before our coach journey back - 20 euros for a meal and a pint with views over one of the canals - it would be rude not to!
Total cost breakdown
Return bus tickets from London to Amsterdam = £105
Bike hire = £10
Bus and Train fares to/from Keukenhof = £20
Meal in Amsterdam = £20
Total = £155
Getting to and from Keukenhof
From Amsterdam Schipol Airport
Getting to Keukenhof is the easiest way to explore Lisse too, and getting there from the airport is the easiest way since there is a direct bus from Arrivals to Keukenhof Gardens.
In the Arrivals area, head to the far end where you see the large Starbucks and exit the doors next to Starbucks. Right in front of you is the bus park and you’ll the the queue and Keukenhof staff directing you to the Keukenhof Express - bus 858. You can buy the bus and gardens entry combi ticket from here.
The 858 also goes directly back to the airport from the carpark outside Keukenhof.
From Amsterdam City
Unfortunately (and bizarrely) there is no direct link to Keukenhof to or from Amsterdam. Most websites will recommend taking the 858 buses back to the airport and the Express train from there to the city. Here is the alternative which we used to get from Keukenhof to Amsterdam Central station.
Take bus 859 from Keukenhof to Hoofddorp station (you can use your keukenhof bus ticket on the 859 too)
At Hoofddorp station take the Sprinter train 4 stops to Amsterdam Centraal
at Hoofddorp if you already have one of the Amsterdam train passes then you can use this
if you want a single ticket, there is no signage and the station has no information which is very unhelpful (we asked at the food kiosk). You need to use the yellow top up card ticket machines but ONLY THE MIDDLE ONE dispenses single paper tickets - so use this one.
You do need a ticket, your ticket will be checked on the train and you can be fined 60 euros for travelling without a ticket.
Alternatively you can buy a single train ticket here: https://webshop.gvb.nl/en_gb/daycard/
We found the transport system very difficult to navigate with limited signage or information points. This website helps explain more about the ticketing system and how to buy.
I hope this guide helps you plan your budget trip to Lisse and to the see the tulips, whether for a short trip or a longer one! Let me know if you end up using any of the tips!
Have you been to see the tulips in Lisse or elsewhere in the Netherlands?